Mount Prospect honors two teens for act of bravery

  • Mount Prospect Fire Chief Brian Lambel, left, gave Prospect High School student Ben Pennino, center, and recent graduate Ryan Brock, right, lifesaving awards this month for their actions to pull a man from a burning vehicle after a crash in January.

      Mount Prospect Fire Chief Brian Lambel, left, gave Prospect High School student Ben Pennino, center, and recent graduate Ryan Brock, right, lifesaving awards this month for their actions to pull a man from a burning vehicle after a crash in January. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 10/17/2020 5:50 PM

A typical night on the job quickly turned into a life-or-death situation for a pair of Mount Prospect teens in January, when two cars collided outside their workplace, leaving one of the vehicles engulfed in flames.

What happened next earned Ryan Brock, 18, and Ben Pennino, 17, an appearance before the Mount Prospect village board earlier this month, when they were presented with lifesaving awards by Fire Chief Brian Lambel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I was just reacting automatically," said Ben, a senior at Prospect High School. "If someone needs help, you got to help someone. Me and Ryan kind of have that same mentality. We are both in Boy Scouts together and both of us are in the same troop, Troop 23, and have been part of it for a long time now."

According to Des Plaines police, the Jan. 5 crash occurred when a 2008 Nissan Altima was attempting to make a right turn onto northbound Elmhurst Road from a private drive near Golf Road and was struck by a 2019 Chevrolet Impala traveling northbound on Elmhurst.

Ryan and Ben were working at a Boston Market restaurant when they saw the Impala burst into flames after the nearby collision.

"I was behind the counter serving food to a customer. Ryan was in the dining room cleaning, and he was the one that saw it," Ben said. "So we both ran outside."

While Ryan worked on keeping people back, Ben went to the burning car, opened the door and pulled the driver out before dragging him away from the vehicle.

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"Right when I first opened the door, there was a lot of smoke," he said. "So I inhaled some smoke, and that hurt a little bit. But I just wanted to get the guy out. I remember asking him if there was anyone else in the car, which there wasn't, which I'm thankful for."

Ryan, who graduated from Prospect this year and recently earned the rank of Eagle Scout, is considering service in the National Guard. Ben is working toward the Eagle rank and considering enlisting in the Army after his senior year.

"Thank you, for not only your lifesaving efforts, but clearly your desire to be of service to the community and to our nation as a whole," Mayor Arlene Juracek told the teens at this award presentation ceremony. "We're so honored that you are a part of our community."

Police said the driver of the Altima, Alejandro Arzeta, 46, of Des Plaines, died of injuries suffered in the crash.

The driver of the Impala who was rescued by the teens, 33-year-old Eldor Akilov, of Florida, survived. Police later said he had been driving in excess of 80 mph at the time of the collision and is charged with reckless homicide and aggravated driving under the influence. The case is pending, police said.

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